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CLIFF (article first published : 2001-05-4)

Currently running in the Playhouse Cellar with a good season ahead of it is Cliff, DuMarc Music and Clothing Co’s second show in this venue. In the cast are Stephan Marneweck, Brian Kenneth, Neels Boshoff and Derick van Biljon - four genial, good-looking young men who pay tribute to the now-knighted wonderboy of pop music. Sir Cliff Richard has been producing hit songs for 30 years and, while faithful to their original styles, Cliff presents some of these numbers in a new and upbeat fashion under the capable musical direction of Dawn Selby.

In today’s blasé, seen-it-all society which has become used to no-holds-barred lyrics, it takes some doing to take Cliff’s earlier numbers like Summer Holiday and Bachelor Boy and make them work. Under Peter Court’s tight direction, the foursome pulls it off with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek send-up.

Devised by De Wet Wraight who also produced the visuals, Cliff opens with much energy, not to mention fire and noise – flame images from the various TV screens and noise from the cast as they bang piping on any nearby percussive surface. Including the ceiling, which they can do – they are the tallest men ever to perform in the Cellar.

Gareth Kenna has produced the costumes and these range from white dungarees in the opening Power to all our Friends through to snappy cowboy outfits for The Young Ones and finishing with the imaginative and striking white outfits for Millennium Prayer, a reminder of Cliff Richard’s strong commitment to Christianity. My favourite costume of the evening is a black sleeveless top with side straps worn with much style by Neels Boshoff.

While this is an ensemble piece and each performer offers his own considerable talents, the dancing honours go to Stephan Marneweck who impresses with his stage presence and lithe movement. Choreographer Coral Chamberlain has made the most of her long-limbed performers’ abilities.

Memorable numbers were Silhouette, Move It, Constantly, Miss You Nights, She’s So Beautiful, The 12th of Never, Devil Woman and I Believe in Miracles. I can’t say I was happy with the arrangement of From a Distance.

While this is a highly enjoyable, humorous and energetic show, one misses inter-action between the cast and the audience. The show is wall-to-wall music with no dialogue and a small and intimate venue such as the Cellar invites a closer rapport with those who are seated right at their feet or, at most, no further than 15 metres away.

Well-written links allow a “breather” in between songs. Not good for the singing voice, true, because it means coming down fast from overdrive into second gear, as it were – but it does the listener good to get out of the fast line for a moment or two. All the better to enjoy the next number.

Based on the structure used for DuMarc’s previous Cellar show, All Alone on a Saturday Night, Marc Wells and Peter Court’s set is all aluminium and steel. Hi-tech, glitzy and providing good surfaces off which to bounce Michael Broderick’s excellent lighting design, it also features a small revolving stage, a first for the Cellar if I’m not mistaken although it’s not used to its full potential. The sound is powerful and well-balanced.

Tickets at R110 include a three course meal and Cliff’s menu is a good one. Both starters are delicious: Avocada Marinara with its seafood accompaniment or the lightly curried Pumpkin Quiche. For main course there’s a succulent crumbed Chicken Albert filled with spinach and feta or a tender Tournedos Rossini topped with chicken liver pate and flavoured with a Madeira sauce. The rolled Pastry Palmiers topped with a puree of apple and ice-cream was an enjoyable duo but I found the Custard Mocca Tart rather heavy.

Booking for the show is through TicketWeb or Dial-a-Seat on (031) 369-9555. Block Bookings and sold performances: Pat Loureiro on (031) 369-9505




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